In one of those all too rare “let’s all get along” moments, the U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously on Thursday to approve a resolution directing the Office of the Historian to compile oral histories from former and current members of Congress who participated in the historic civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, on March 7, 1965, known as Bloody Sunday. The experiences of lawmakers who’ve participated in the commemorative marches that have taken place since also will be documented.
“I’m so pleased that this resolution will preserve the oral history of current and former members of Congress who participated in the civil rights movement and it will also preserve the experiences of members who have come on the pilgrimage to Alabama,” said Rep. John Lewis, adding that many leave the experience feeling forever changed by it. “This resolution will help us preserve a powerful and transformative period in American history with the brave and courageous souls who spread blood and tears in Alabama and throughout the South.”
Lewis, who helped lead the original march, also said that if not for the sacrifices that were made America would be a very different nation today.
"We left Brown Chapel A.M.E Church that morning on a sacred mission, prepared to defy the dictates of man, to demonstrate the truth of a higher law," he said. "Ordinary citizens with extraordinary vision walked shoulder to shoulder, two by two in a silent, peaceful protest against injustice in the American South."
Forty-seven years ago 600 civil rights protesters en route from Selma to Montgomery were stopped at the Edmund Pettus Bridge where state and local policemen attacked them with billy clubs and tear gas, driving them back to Selma. Two days later, Martin Luther King Jr. led a symbolic march to the bridge and after civil rights leaders sought court protection, they completed a third march all the way to the state capitol in Montgomery. About five months later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which gave African-Americans across the nation the right to vote.
Recalling Johnson’s speech before a joint session of Congress during which he called for the Voting Rights Act, Lewis recalled the president saying, “I speak tonight for the dignity of man and for the destiny of democracy,” and ended his remarks with the civil rights movement’s mantra, “And we shall overcome.”
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(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)